People are dreading post lockdown life and we asked a psychologist to explain why

Not everyone is thrilled about what will happen

When lockdown first started the general vibe was “I can’t wait to get back out, down the pub, shag everyone in sight the first day this is all over”. However we’re now six weeks in and the mood about life post lockdown for some has changed from excitement to dread and anxiety.

After the initial shock to the system and life upheaval, people have more or less settled into a routine, and are actually really enjoying the luxury of time, not having to leave the house and having a good excuse to binge everything on Netflix.

Now we’re officially past the peak and starting to think about life after lockdown, and it turns out we’re a lot more anxious about life after lockdown than originally anticipated. People are having mixed emotions to life post lockdown. Yes, I’m dying to get a Maccies when it opens, but I’m also quite worried about going back on the tube, being in a club and just generally being in a big group of people, I’ve forgotten how to socialise outside my immediate family.

We spoke to a number of students about the mixed state of emotions they’re in right now about post lockdown life.

Tamsin, 20, told The Tab she was worried that lockdown will happen again as everyone will rush outside after we’re allowed out. She said: “I’m scared everyone will go mad going outside then coronavirus will happen again and we’ll be back in lockdown and it’ll be never ending.”

Another student, Sarah, 21, said she was worried about never feeling comfortable again in public spaces. She said: “I just can’t imagine going back to normal and feeling comfortable in crowded spaces and transport ever again.”

And Eve, 19, said she felt trapped in a cycle of panic about life after lockdown. She told The Tab: “It’s so hard to imagine everything being normal again. I panic about it just going around and around. It’s a horrible trapped feeling, which adds to literal trapped feeling of being at home.”

Other students reported worrying about the potential pressure to socialise, the loss of “me time” and a feeling of guilt about going outside once lockdown is over.

A survey of 1,500 people, revealed 60 per cent would not feel comfortable visiting a friend’s house if lockdown was lifted next week. The survey also suggested that over a third of people would not feel comfortable leaving their home at all. A large section of the survey would also feel comfortable if lockdown continued until July.

The Tab spoke to Chartered Counselling Psychologist Dr. Rachel Allan about this increase in anxiety, why we’re feeling this way and what we can do to help ourselves feel better:

Lockdown is actually far easier than life post lockdown

Dr. Allan said this fresh wave of worry we’re experiencing is because even though our current situation is uncomfortable it’s a lot easier to deal with than the complete unknown of a life after lockdown. She said: “One of the things we find most difficult to deal with is uncertainty or ambiguity. In some ways, we actually find it easier to be in a state of predictable discomfort than we do to face unknown or unpredictable circumstances.”

Behaviours have changed, which makes it harder to know how to act

When it comes to the pressure of how we should act after lockdown ends and who we should see, Dr. Allan says social norms have changed and so there will be a struggle in knowing how to act.

She said: “Lockdown has led to new social norms and changes in what is seen as socially acceptable behaviour. As we transition through the lifting of restrictions, we may find that we struggle with what we ‘should’ and ‘should not’ be doing, because social changes have been so fundamental.”

Lockdown has been beneficial to some people’s emotional health, so to take it away is scary

Dr. Allen said though this time has caused a lot of suffering, for some people it’s been a great time for their emotional health. She said: “Whilst lockdown has caused stress, suffering and loss for many people, for some it has brought some unexpected benefits to emotional health. For those who have felt positive effects such as relief or the removal of the pressures of ordinary life, a return to ‘normal’ may feel threatening.”

When we face uncertainty, our minds sometimes imagine unhelpful future scenarios, so try to stay in the present

Dr. Allan explained in a time of ambiguity our brains will often go into the future and imagine what could happen, which can be unhelpful and cause unnecessary anxiety.

When we face uncertain or ambiguous situations, our minds sometimes deal with that by going off into the future and imagining what might happen. This is often unhelpful because it can lead to us feeling anxious about a set of circumstances that may never occur.”

Dr. Allan recommends trying to focus on the present and what you can control now to help focus your mind. She said: “It is not always an easy thing to do, but where possible I would recommend focusing on the present, and directing your attention to what you can influence in there here-and-now as much as possible.”

Lastly, be kind to yourself and remember it’s completely normal to feel this way

Dr Allan advises going easy on yourself and know there is no one way to respond to this crisis. She says: “Ultimately, this situation has brought about all kinds of loss, uncertainty and change, and we have all had to confront the limits to what we can control. These are all experiences than can amount to the effects of trauma.

“This is not a normal situation, and there is not a ‘normal’ way to respond. So for anyone concerned about restrictions easing, I would say go easy on your self and recognise that this is not a normal situation.”

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans on 116 123 (UK and Ireland), email [email protected], or visit the Samaritans website to find details of the nearest branch. 

All advice featured in this piece was from Dr Rachel M Allan, Chartered Counselling Psychologist based in Glasgow. For more information please visit her website

Featured image credit: Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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